HE WAS once called an "insignificant nobody" by Kevin Pietersen but Graeme Smith insists there is now a "mutual respect" between the new team-mates.
The two cricketing heavyweights, both born in South Africa, were once at loggerheads after Pietersen's decision to play for England and his subsequent claim of over-the-top sledging by Smith on his return to the home of the Proteas in the international game.
South African captain Smith replied at the time: "I'm patriotic about my country and that's why I don't like Kevin Pietersen".
However, with Smith taking over as Surrey skipper for the 2013 season, the 32-year-old is keen to play down their feud.
"I think every time he went to a press conference he would say something about South Africa and then I would come into the press conference and answer. So it brought out that tension but I think that is all gone now," Smith said. "We have played against each other enough times to know each other pretty well and this opportunity [captaining Surrey] allows me a chance to know him better."
And following a controversial 2012 season which saw Pietersen retire from One-Day Internationals in May before reversing his decision in August, Smith is glad to see the batsman back to his best.
"There is no doubt about that he is a world-class player and people want to see him play," Smith said of Pietersen. "It is good to see Kevin has mended a few relationships and is playing well. I'm sure England cricket is happy to have him back."
However, Smith admits Pietersen will be spending more time with England than at the Oval.